For years, people who enjoy artists and crafts have known that Brown County deserves the title "The Art Colony of the Midwest." And each year, for one weekend in June, the public has a chance to see for themselves.\nThe fourth annual Brown County Studio and Garden Tour will take place this Saturday and Sunday in the workshops of 14 local artists. The free, self-guided tour aims to showcase the artists in action.\n"We actually have to be demonstrating for two-hour periods at a time," Dick Hartung, a watercolor landscape painter, said. "People get to see what we do, and it's fun to have a little interplay with the public."\nHartung, a licensed architect, has been painting for nearly 50 of his 65 years. He was required to take six semesters of art classes for his major in college and became hooked. He feels that the atmosphere in Brown County is a nurturing one in which to work. \n"I know that I'm in a great artistic community," he said. "I feel elated to be among such a fine group of people."\nIt seems that every artist you talk to has a common reason for choosing to work here -- the pristine natural surroundings. Floral pottery artist Cheri Platter is one of them.\n"I call my studio Faerie Hollow because of all the fireflies in the woods. In fact, a lot of the early artists who settled in this area liked to call it Fairyland. It's the natural beauty that makes it an ideal place for us to work," she said.\nJane Graber, who crafts early American styled miniatures, agrees.\n"When you're surrounded by lakes, trees, and hills, it inspires the artist in everyone," she said. Graber started her career as a potter at a museum in Ohio, and grew to love the early American historical period, which she incorporates into her work. Her first miniatures were made as souvenir gifts for the children that visited the museum. \nWhile linking art with gardening may seem a bit of a stretch, many of the artists have grown beautiful gardens which will also be on display during the tour.\n"Gardens are an ever-changing tapestry of form, texture, and colors," Graber said. "They definitely play into my ideas about aesthetic beauty."\nNow in its fourth year, the town has enjoyed a fair amount of success, attracting art and nature lovers from Bloomington and the surrounding communities. Co-founder Janet Spears says that the idea was to draw attention to the county's pool of talent.\n"We began to realize how many artists had studios outlying Brown County, and we thought people should know about it," she said. "We crossed our fingers, hoping people would come out, and they did."\n"One of the many reasons we've been successful is that we have a very open, accepting community. If an artist carves out a niche for themselves, whatever it is, people appreciate it."\nThe Brown County Studio and Garden tour is free and open to the public from 9 a.m. to 6 p.m. on Saturday, June 29 and 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. on Sunday, June 30. Artists will have goods for sale at their homes. Maps are available at T.C. Steele State Historic Site, Brown County Inn and Restaurant, and Story Inn Bed and Breakfast and Restaurant.
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